Go to Bologna, and Take Me with You
Updated: Nov 30, 2018
Bologna was so charming with its alleys of salumerias and porticos on every main street, but mainly it was delicious. We tend to lump “Italian food” together in the US, but when we left Rome and went to Bologna I was shocked that the pastas on the menus of every Roman trattoria were nowhere to be found and there was a whole host of new foods available to try. Here are a few...
Tigelle and gnocco fritto - how did we miss these on our first trip? Puffed, fried bread. Served with your salumi platter. Top with cheese and meat. Wash down with Lambrusco. Repeat.
Mortadella - now I understand why the lunch meat bologna is called bologna. Mortadella (like the fanciest, best bologna you’ve had) is the speciality here. (Note: I did not research to ascertain whether this is true, but it feels super true). The mortadella here ranges from dark pink, spiced, and thickly sliced, to paper thin, light pink, and delicately flavored. I wanted to eat it all.
Prosciutto crudo - aka parma ham, this is the good stuff exported the world over. I have trouble with cured meats when I think to hard about how they are just old and not cooked, but the high quality stuff here is way more delicate and less chewy than what I’m used to.
Squacquerone - this is some kind of magic white creamy cheese with some lumps that gets spread on the tigelle and is delicious.
Tortelli and variants - Emilia-Romagna is the land of stuffed pastas and Bologna is the capital. There are shapes (cappelletti - little hats) and sizes (tortellini < tortelli < tortelloni) I’d never heard of, and sometimes I’d bite into a dish not knowing whether there would be meat or cheese or squash in my pasta pocket as I explored something new. I don’t even like stuffed pasta in the US, but here it is literally all delicious.
Tagliatelle al ragu - aka what is usually served as spaghetti bolognese in the US, the sauce to pasta proportions are carefully perfected and a bowl of parmesan is brought tableside so you can heap the good stuff (you’re so close to Parma after all) on til you’re satisfied.
We had a few standout meals there despite the fact that it was a quick 48 hours. For one, we ate at Bottega Portici twice. Yes, twice in two days. Part of this was that it’s cafeteria style which is great with a kiddo. But part of it was that the pasta was amongst the best we had in Italy, which is obviously saying something. Bottega Portici is the super casual outpost of a Michelin star chef, there are two sfogline that work all day hand rolling and cutting past in the window, and the tagliatelle al ragu is really perhaps one of the best uses of €9 in Italy.
I also had really outstanding gelato at Cremeria Santo Stefano. The flavors were so intense, it bore little resemblance to ice cream. The pistacchio was more pistachio-y than eating a nut directly and the cioccolato was perfectly rich - both were both truly excellent.
I almost forgot the incredible sandwiches we had at I Panini di Miro, a stand that was around the corner from our Airbnb but would have been worth a walk across town to get to. There were so many options that I picked three at semi-random and then while I waited for the order to come up had so many pangs of regret as I kept reading the menu. Well the only thing I needed to regret was getting only three sandwiches because they were each incredibly flavorful and delicious. There are a few tables to eat outside the the college students if the weather is nice.
We also did one of the taglieri di salumi at La Baita Vecchie Malva which was fun and delicious - though honestly most of the places in those little alleys probably would be equally good. Go where you can snag a table and soak up the atmosphere and tigelle with some Lambrusco! And take me with you!